MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat; Piano Concerto No. 24 in c – Angela Hewitt, p./ NAC Orch. / Hannu Lintu – Hyperion

MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat, K. 482; Piano Concerto No. 24 in c, K. 491 – Angela Hewitt, piano/ National Arts Center Orch. / Hannu Lintu – Hyperion CDA68049, 63:20 [Distr. by Harmonia mundi] ****:

This is the third installment in Hewitt’s ongoing Mozart Piano Concerto series, and it is shaping up to be a fine one. The orchestra is not large, and the sound is somewhat constricted (sounds like it was recorded under an outdoor shell) but this is not inappropriate for these concertos. No. 22 is one of the most noble, or at least most ebullient of all Mozart’s piano concertos, composed in the Figaro year of 1785 which started the trilogy of Nos. 22-24. It was also the first to use clarinets instead of oboes, a sound the composer adored and which adds a delightful richness to the material in general. Hewitt captures the extraordinary and exceptional lyricism of the music to good effect, especially in the middle movement, which had to be encored at the premiere, and which was probably finished only hours before. She is Canadian, so is going back to her home area to make these recordings.

No. 24 is easily the most dramatic and definitely the most operatic of all the concertos. C-minor being reserved for special occasions (one only has to think of the Piano Sonata and the Wind Serenade as examples) Mozart lets loose with an introduction that is as pertinent to the stage as any vocal piece he ever wrote. One hears the dramatic exposition only to let the piano (soprano?) enter with a hushed succulence that almost invites one to ponder the tragedy. The second movement provides but a brief interlude with foreshadowing of the march-like yet highly extroverted dance variations that end the work, replete with the hint of menace throughout. You can’t come away from any hearing of this work unscathed—it is that powerful, particularly when in the hands of someone like Hewitt, who has a sixth sense about the curves and straightaways of this formidably serious piece.

The orchestra plays with panache and a sense of fine Mozartian style, oblivious to China-doll delectations or overplayed histrionics. Hewitt maintains just the right timing and touch in both works, each a fine continuation of what should be a very desirable collection when completed.

—Steven Ritter

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